From Where I Sit- A Timeless Treasure

How Fiddler on the Roof made its way to the JFed Players’ Stage.

I’m not quite sure when I first remember watching Fiddler on the Roof or listening to the music of this iconic show. I remember singing it in choir, and it always being part of the ethos in my family. And yet, growing up, even to this day, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this show… Or maybe hate is too strong of a word. During a Sing-along screening on Christmas Eve 10 years ago, I remember taking the following note as I sat at the Claremont Laemmle theater with other Jews:
“The problem facing the Jewish community is epitomized in the fact that an event to bring the Jewish community out on Christmas eve is a film almost 50 years old. Partly because it is a bell weather and that there is no other well established ‘thing’ to bring people together. Kind of like how Hatikvah is used as an anthem for Jews.
    I didn’t have any issues with the movie. Still, I don’t believe I fully understood or was able to comprehend how deeply rooted Fiddler has become within the American Jewish vernacular.
    Yet, I am in awe of how much people feel connected to the show and its lessons, morals, and universal connections. For a show deeply rooted in Jewish history and connected to the “old country,” this timeless treasure is performed every day worldwide. There have been books, documentaries, and even a Yiddish version of the show that I still feel a deep connection to.
    In fact, one of my all-time favorite quotes comes from Fiddler. It is when a couple of townspeople are discussing something. After one of them makes a point, Tevye says, “You know he’s right.” And then the other person gives a counterpoint, and Tevye once again says, “You know he’s right.” An observer then points out to Tevye that if one of them is correct, how can the other person be right? And Tevye says, “You know… you’re right.” I love this because this scene is a reminder that, very often, two truths can be correct simultaneously. So not only is Fiddler part of our history and tradition, but it is also a reminder that we can learn lessons about life while watching a national… an international treasure.
    When our Jewish Federation launched our Cultural Arts program back in 2011, one of the things I said when we decided that we were going to create what would ultimately become our JFed Players, was that I never wanted us to do Fiddler on the Roof. You see, I didn’t want our program to be seen as just doing “Jewish” shows. So I said we could never do Fiddler on the Roof (or Yentl). However, when the JFed Players Steering Committee told me they wanted to produce and put on Fiddler as part of our special 30th Anniversary programming, it seemed only fitting, as our Cultural Arts program celebrates its Bar Mitzvah year. I am so proud of what this program has created and accomplished since it began.
    I hope you’ll join us as we return to Anatevka at one of the upcoming performances.   

Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.


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